Friday, 27 September 2013

Twitter, Grrr!

First thing to say is, I still don't really understand Twitter, I don't get the structure of the threads. It might be I'm using it wrong or the client is a lot of shit - what ever it is - I find it to be infuriating.

This particular batch of words aren't about politics or independence as such, they're more about the vehicle some choose to debate and get their message across about it - you can take it or leave it. These past few days I've been dipping my toes in to what I regard as being proper twitter debate - it is seriously fuck-a-duck irritating.

I'll tell you what started it though. Mine was a reluctant sign up to Twitter, I've got Facebook so between that and the usual email address's you acquire, (one above board the other for more exotic interests - yeah yeah don't lie now) its more than enough to be getting on with. The thing is though, Facebook is blocked at work, Twitter is not. So bored was I one day, I signed up to the latter. I don't have many followers and I don't follow many people, the reason is because I can't keep up, I miss a ton of stuff that I'm not sure I should be missing. (I've been using it for months and only recently discovered the Interactions/Mentions thing.)

That perhaps puts my limitations in terms of social networking into perspective and it sort of stands to reason - its not that I'm unsociable - its just that I haven't got a clue.

So I've been using Twitter for a while and something/somebody called @netaid (link to their/his webpage) retweets or follows me, the name - cunningly different from the erm, other name - which is 'Scotland' encourages me to follow back.

Bit of a mistake.

An avalanche of retweets from 'Scotland' crashed down from the ether. As far as I can gather, it automatically retweets (or some sad bastard is doing it manually) any tweet with names like @theSNP, @YesScotland or @UKTogether and (I think) any others vaguely to do with Scottish politics.

Being honest, I don't really know how it works, only that my Twitter stream - if that's what it's called - filled (and is filling) up with retweets from every UKIP & Better Together nutball tweeter. Cue me, rushing around refuting negativity, bullshit and other examples of unionist fuckwittery - I mean I couldn't help it.

The thing is - and the main point of this moderately pointless post - 'Scotland' includes so many other @names in its retweets (again, I don't fully understand why,) the character limit doesn't allow you to properly refute anything - you just can't squeeze it in. Its doubly stupid because its all shit anyway, I'm sitting here (admittedly at work - but on a break ;-) furiously editing down responses to the point of incomprehensibility and for what? To refute some plainly stupid argument being made by an obviously misinformed person that (probably) me and only five other users are reading?

We all know about internet trolls and how they work and we know not to rise to it, but sometimes...

In any case, I'm giving up, life is too short. A lot of people think twitter is a great place for debate, I've come to the conclusion that for any thing other than getting the most terse of messages across - its a lot of shite.

I've reluctantly unfollowed @netaid or Scotland or what ever they're called, if there is some sad bastard sitting retweeting manually, please stop - you're wasting your life and those of others who haven't got the sense & strength to step away from their keyboards.

I appreciate anyone making the effort to read these tortuous posts or my asinine tweets, so I unfollow with a heavy heart. For the next few days, I'll know those people are still tweeting the most egregious arse-gravy and I'll agonize about it, the urge to refute will be strong - intolerably so at times - but I will remain steadfast.

Here's something which best demonstrates the previous few days.

Some one might want to start 'Refuters Anonymous', if you adopted a Weight Watchers business model, you'll probably make a wedge of cash.

PS: Would it be hypocritical to share this on Twitter? Probably.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

What to talk about...

I don't blog very often, maybe once or twice a week, I don't want to bore people and lets be honest - there are others saying much the same thing with more erudition and elan than I ever could. Sometimes though, a subject does need repeated and I am aware there are some who read this but not other independence supporting blogs.

The weekend saw the second Independence Rally take place on Calton Hill. Those participating assembled on the High Street then ambled down South Bridge, along Waterloo Place and up Calton Hill.

Some information about the rally first though. A lot of people don't realise it isn't organised by the SNP or the Yes Scotland campaign, representatives from those groups speak, but it is organised independently by two people - Jeff Duncan & Anne McMillan. It truly is a grassroots effort - for example - I also attended the night-before-the-rally-party at the Calton Hotel, not realising at the time the person I was swapping banal emails about Paypal was Jeff Duncan himself.

It is funded by donations from supporters leading up to and by stewards shaking buckets on the day of the rally

Ross Bandstand from the Castle.

The first March took place at the Meadows and the Ross band stand and saw around 7000 attend. Reports vary on numbers, as you would imagine, those organisations not in favour of self-determination (ie. the entirety of the Scottish press corps) tend to err on the cautious side. There have been lots of figures for this year knocked about, organisers say up to 30,000 took part at different times of the day (some marched but didn't go up the hill and vice versa.) The police settled on a figure of 20,000  - an increase on last year and a respectable number.

It was impossible to get an idea of the crowd on Calton Hill, the land undulates with many dips and mounds - the march itself was more obviously busy.

About 10am sitting outside Subway looking toward the top of Cockburn Street.

Standing down a bit from Subway at about 11:45, the High Street officially mobbed. 

National Collective getting organised, I take a shit photo so its not clear, but never have I ever seen a bunch of more fashionably dressed people.
This was my place in the march near to the Heart of Midlothian. I walked with Yes Falkirk, Yes Arran, Stewart Hosie MP and a woman who I'm positive is someone on the telly but couldn't place, she had terrific eye make up though.
View down South Bridge, at this point the front of the march had arrived on top of Calton Hill almost 40 minutes beforehand.
The overflow area behind and slightly to the left of Scotland's National Monument (the big half finished column thing.) Another crap photo, sitting off to the left are about 1,000 more people, I was aiming for the chap on the screen, apparently he's Jai McDowell who's an X Factor winner or runner up - I don't really know. He fair belted it out though, I'll give him that.
You can probably tell someone else took this photo because its quite arty. It gives an idea of the crowd in front of the main stage. The same number again are standing to either side of this view.
The organisers did quite well even although the venue wasn't ideal. Food was available (so long as you didn't mind waiting) and an entirely more innocent form of face-painting than that which normally goes on up Calton Hill of a weekend was being offered. Stalls from Newsnet Scotland, National Collective and the SSP among others selling wares and asking for signatures were also present.

Dropping into anorak mode - the speeches were good with stand out moments from Nicola Sturgeon (very popular with the crowd) and Alan Grogan from Labour for Independence who almost - just almost mind - might have me voting Labour in 2016 if he was running. High praise indeed, I'd vote Tory before I'd vote Labour. With the Tories, at least they don't hide the fact they're a bunch of heartless grasping bastards. The current bunch of lying, two-faced, self-serving shitbags that infest the Labour ranks aren't anything like as truthful.

But I digress.

Unionists wasted little time before trying to attenuate any positive effects the day might have. They were quick to point out that Vlaamse Volksbeweging attended, a right wing political group from Belgium who want an independent Flemish nation.

That's it. Its ruined. Go home, five people from Belgium who might be a bit nutty are here. They've all but over-shadowed the other 19,995 or so people here. I mean fuck! Who let them into what is a completely open public space that we also happened to be using?

Is this as bad for Yes Scotland and the SNP as the Telegraph would like you to believe? Well given we've already looked at who organised the rally (as in - not Yes Scotland or the SNP) and its the telegraph reporting - its possibly not as devastating as they might hope. I mean I saw a tramp up the hill clutching a can of cheap lager, are we to tar everyone else on Calton Hill with that same brush? Heck, its just as well Jeff and Ann organised the rally for during the day - if they'd decided to have it at night - the Telegraph would have all us 'separatists' labelled as disease-riddled cottagers interested only in having our faces painted by burly strangers in the bushes.

But I digress again.

As expected, the rally got minimal media coverage although the Sunday Herald had a commendable front page spread. Meanwhile unionists have not altered their attack technique, seemingly still feeling the need to manufacture arguments to assail Yes Scotland and the political organisations it represents. 

I've asked this question before, is it really the case that independence is such a good idea that those against have resigned themselves to attacking it with stuff they've made up? Uncertainty is not an exclusive feature of a yes vote - can Westminster (for example) make any more of a guarantee on pensions as an independent Scottish government? The SNP have been criticised for not costing their pension plans, as usual, Better Together etc demand manifesto promises from the SNP now while Westminster parties point-blank refuse to tell us what they'll be doing until well after the referendum.

One wonders why?

On a positive note, walking back along Rose Street after the rally, I don't think I've heard so many people talking about the independence referendum. People sitting outside the many pubs chatting, some sounding skeptical and others more enthusiastic about it. The Yes side have absolutely nothing to fear from this, the truth of Scotland's place in the union once learned cannot be unlearned - the direction of travel is always toward a yes vote.

On a not so positive note, I went for a haircut the day after. The usual barbershop chat ensued - "done anything interesting this weekend?" I said I'd been on the independence rally to which she replied "oh, was that Adolf Salmond there?" I thought about pointing out it wasn't all about Alex Salmond but decided to stay very quiet and very still for the duration.

Her scissors all-of-a-sudden looked very sharp.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Cowardly antics

If you want an example of craven cowardice, grasping desperation and out-and-out thick-headed attention seeking you wouldn't go far wrong with Thursday's edition of the Daily Mail. As newspapers go, we know what to expect but the two faced nature of the publication in this instance really needs to be highlighted.

As you can see, The Mail publishes two different editions - one for Scotland and another for the rest of the UK. The image above shows Thursday's edition, you can tell which one is which.

Simon Heffer - the chubby-faced gentleman you can see in the (upper) rUK version was responsible for the article 'Why the Scots must quite the UK'. (This hyperlink to the story takes you to an archived version, its obvious clickbait for the Daily Mail - best not to give them the hits.) By way of a hint, here's a wee snippet of Heffer's banter:

This is not an official Better Together image, not even they are that stupid.
(How unfair and biased am I.)

Now, so far so insulting. I don't mind a bit of harsh reportage, we've all heard and (some) enjoyed the rapier-like cut-and-thrust of debate, the banter on Have I Got News For You or Mock the Week. The thing is, the back and forth you hear on these types of programs usually (Susan Calman not-with-standing) have some basis in fact, Simon Heffer's opinion on the other hand is pure unadulterated shit.

Heffer is typical of a strain of Britnat that infests the corridors of the British Establishment. They come from all corners of the UK and maniacally espouse the notion - fueled by a denial of the end of empire - that Britain is still great, that the UK still works well under the beneficent rule of Westminster.  People like Heffer know full well Scottish revenue kept & keeps the UK afloat and has done so for the past 30 years and more. When he and his ilk puke up the kind of bilge above about English money - he knows its Scottish money because in this bastard union, Scottish money IS British money and British money is English money.

When that useless arse Gordon Brown - another British Nationalist with his snout firmly in the trough -  talked in Govan about pooling and sharing resources, he was being 50% honest. Westminster are past-masters at pooling resources from all around the world, what it isn't so great at is sharing. HS2, the new London sewage system, the Olympics, the jubilee celebrations - all part funded by Scottish revenue but Scotland didn't gain nor will gain anything from it. The high speed rail project costing upwards of £40 billion stops 200 miles from the Scottish border yet we're paying a per capita share for it - be in no doubt, Scotland is and will continue to be a cash cow for Westminster and people like Heffer will continue to believe - as scions of the British Establishment - that Scotland's income is their income.

Simon Heffer represents a slender yet voluble slice of British society, it includes Scottish people like Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, they are fully immersed in and cosseted by the union. Putting to one side the labels, would a smaller group of people want to be part of a larger group when sections of that larger group feel such deep ire for them? Are Better Together and its supporters the new kids at some terrible private school trying desperately to pull the prefect's coat tails round their narrow shoulders for protection? Even although the bigger kids think they're useless sponging dopes happy to see their dinner money 'pooled' for the greater good of the bigger boys - is the United Kingdom some sort of cult praying on those with dependency issues?

The Daily Mail aided & abetted by the corpulent Simon Heffer have used forecasts from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (a Westminster invention known & loved by the Daily Mail because of its overly conservative figures where Scottish revenues are concerned) and used them to rubbish Scotland as a going concern. What is more, the Daily Mail and Heffer didn't have the guts to print it in the Scottish edition, we got a puff piece about Prince William's dog instead.

(Digressing slightly, the MOD had to put down a German and a Belgian Shepherd (called Brus and Blade respectively.) The two dogs guarded RAF Valley where Prince William was stationed. The MOD said Brus had come to the end of his working life and Blade had 'behavioural problems'. Obviously the dogs were trained killers so not conducive to normal rehoming efforts. The MOD clearly did not exhaust all avenues in their efforts to rehome the dogs - I believe Blade and Brus would have flourished at Northcliffe House in Kensington.)

Many of us have friends in England, while we can only hope they don't read the Daily Mail, that it has taken it upon itself to turn them against us makes things somewhat personal. It is a display of wanton irresponsibility to print this shit in England and one of craven, yellow-bellied gutlessness to not do so in Scotland. The Daily Mail is a doltish rag, anyone walking out of a newsagent with a copy must have it confiscated immediately, rolled up tightly, then be beaten around the back of the legs until they come to their senses.

By voting no next September, you're voting to stay in a union ran by an establishment doing its best to make the wider citizenry of said union hate your grasping, lager-sodden, substance-addled guts.

Each time some daft buffoon attempts to enforce the grasping sense of entitlement that typifies the British Establishment, more people in Scotland are turned on to the truth surrounding Scotland's actual place in this discordant union..

We should probably thank Simon, sometimes we on this side of things jokingly refer to the more dire unionist proponents as spies or agents-in-place for Yes Scotland. He on the other hand is exactly what he appears to be: a feeble-minded cretin.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Fit for purpose?

There are many facets to the independence debate, one of the most gnarly is press bias in favour of the status quo generally and Scottish Labour in particular. But every now and again and example comes up that is so obvious, so cut and dried, that even I feel like highlighting it.

This... Johann Lamont, I've mentioned Johann before, she's the leader of Labour in Scotland. Among other things, this means she is responsible for holding the Scottish Government to account. The only part of the previous sentence which has any connection with reality is that I've mentioned Johann Lamont before, the rest is bilge - yet - its what we're all expected to accept. In any case, saying Johann Lamont is the 'leader of Scottish Labour' is a bit like saying I'm the leader of...

... the World Champion Cheer-leading team of 2013 - its just not the case.

As usual, I digress.

Johann Lamont's preferred method of holding the Scottish government to account is to throw as much mud as she can and hope some of it sticks. Unfortunately, Johann's throwing arm isn't that great.

This week at FMQ's (First Minister's Questions for the uninitiated) Johann had a mud pie to throw. Here's the gist of it: Back in 2007/8 land was bought near Paisley for £840,000 for the then Labour/Lib Dem GARL project (Glasgow Airport Rail Link.) The project was subsequently scrapped by the SNP administration in 2009 due to a shortage of funds related to the global melt down of 2007/8 and subsequent cuts coming from Westminster which cascaded down through the Scottish Parliament. The land was bought from a company called Airlink Group ran by a chap called John McGlynn.

Fast forward to this year, the land - no longer required and much devalued - had to be sold under UK Government rules

The parcel of land was put up for sale with a reserve price of £50,000. I have no idea how land is valued, presumably some one turns up with a theodolite and a clip board and gives the owner a price way below what they expected.

In any case, the land didn't sell. Lawyers for Airlink with John McGlynn still at the helm bought it back for the reserve price of £50,000 with a nice profit of £790,000 in the deal.

I know what you're thinking...

What hell is going on here?

Which is what Johann thought too. She said, John McGlynn - who used to be a Tory donor but has since shown support for 'fiscal autonomy' had...

"...been on something of a political journey" adding: "Now he supports the Yes campaign. Since then he's been appointed to the Scottish government national economic forum."

Although John McGlynn is not a member of any referendum campaign or party - his support for independence is equivocal, the fearless Johann went on to suggest...

"Is there some connection here, or has Mr McGlynn just benefited from the first minister's gross incompetence with public funds?"  

I mean, this looks terrible doesn't it? Finally Johann has a mud pie that's going to stick and stick badly to Alex Salmond and the SNP government he leads...



We need to look at it from a different perspective, instead of the most recent sale price, we need to have a look at the price paid and the circumstances around the purchase back in 2007/8.

So, the land was purchased from Airlink by the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority at the height of the property bubble, we can't blame them for that. The SPTA was under the direct control of the local authority which in this case was Labour controlled Glasgow City Council, with that in mind, it was stuffed with Labour Councillors. At that point the Scottish Government had nothing to do with GARL - it was all down to the SPTA (now known as Strathclyde Partnership for Transport) and the Labour dominated Glasgow City Council.

And guess what.

Johann Lamont's husband...

Archie Graham, who is also a Glasgow Labour Councillor (for Langside) was a board member of SPTA.

The Scottish Government at the time had nothing to do with the purchase of the land, it was managed by the SPTA and its officers. Local Authorities get a fair bit of leeway when it comes to how they comport themselves, they are after all overseen by democratically elected councillors, for MSP's to wade in on an as-and-when basis would be seen - quite rightly - as meddling.

Meanwhile The Herald is running with the story here. The facts are as they are, they can't really be argued with, occasionally it can be a bit grey, but in this instance? Its pretty clear. Johann Lamont's mud pie has backfired, this wasn't a Scottish Government thing, it was a Glasgow Labour thing. That John McGlynn profited to the extent he did is a bit difficult to swallow, but the SG followed the rules exactly as set out on its inception, it had to - by law - sell the land. The problem wasn't in the sale of the land, it was in the purchase of it - the SPTE could have put in place a Compulsory Purchase Order - they're doing it with enthusiasm for the Glasgow Common Wealth Games - but they didn't.

People tend to read the headlines then skim down the story, if they look at the details at all. In this instance, what most Herald readers will see is this:*

Salmond in row over claims land deal benefited supporter of independence

Or this from the BBC news website:*

Concern raised in Holyrood over Scottish government land deal

And this from the execrable Scotsman:*

Apology demanded over Lamont’s SNP land deal claim

And Johann as the leader of Scottish Labour will see her job as done.

Do you still think the press in Scotland are fair and impartial? Let me put that another way, do you still think I'm the leader of a world class cheer leading team?

* The headlines are correct at the time of publication. The press have a habit of changing headlines retrospectively - presumably once they feel sufficient damage has been done.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Race to the bottom/bedroom tax. (Eh sorry, the 'spare room subsidy'.)

So, Raquel Rolnik then, here she is:

Rachel Rolnik is a Special Rapporteur with the UN sent to the UK to investigate Westminster's bedroom tax.

One thing at a time though, what is the bedroom tax? Well, first of all, we don't want to further offend poor Grant Shapps' delicate sensibilities - Grant by the way, apart from being a bit petulant, is the Conservative Party Chairman - he prefers to call the bedroom tax the 'Spare Room Subsidy'. A lot of people think the bedroom tax is a Tory invention - it isn't. New Labour under Gordon Brown introduced it for private tenants (people in receipt of housing benefit but not living in council or housing association properties) in 2008, the Tories just extended it to all tenants in receipt of housing benefit.

How does it work? If you have one spare room, your housing benefit will be cut by 14%, if you have two or more it'll be cut by 25%. The aim is to encourage people who only require one bedroom but live in a house with more to relocate to smaller digs thus freeing up the bigger homes for families.

The trouble is, all sorts of unintended consequences are occurring; disabled people who require carers to stay over night, or require the space to store equipment (hoist & wheel chairs etc,) grand parents with familial responsibilities or those with spare rooms which are in fact over-sized cupboards but have been classified incorrectly have all been caught out. They have to fund the short fall from their already over-strained finances.

Of course, on the surface of it, it seems like a reasonable idea, I can't afford a two bedroom property and I work full time (no laughing at the back.) Turns out, its not though. Firstly, its only going to save something like £500 million, they say a 'saving' but the costs involved in rehousing, collecting rent arrears and the usual levels of bureaucracy these things attract - it isn't going to be a saving at all. Secondly, there is a serious shortfall in single bedroom properties - no one builds them any more because multi-bed dwellings are more popular and flexible.

Nick & Margaret: We Pay All Your Benefits - from the BBC.
Two exceedingly well off people judging the poor - how terribly Victorian.

People in receipt of benefits are an easy target, especially with a press only too eager to amplify the kind of faux outrage Westminster parties need to press ahead with their ideologically-driven policies. There are so many reasons why its such a shit idea and as usual, its not straight forward, so many people switch off thinking "well, its not happening to me so..." The thing is, it could happen to you, and even if it never does, you'll pay for the aftermath with your cash and your own standard of living

The Bedroom tax is just another facet of Westminster's race to the bottom, its never about improving people's lot, its about pitting one demographic against another and assuring the lowest common denominator becomes the new normal. I mean, of course it makes sense to remove £500 million from the poorest in the UK instead of, say, actually collecting tax due from large multinational corporations selling their crap in the UK.

But I digress.

Raquel was in the UK in her capacity as a UN Investigator looking at the bedroom tax.
"Ms Rolnik told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that she had received "hundreds of testimonies" and said there was a "danger of a retrogression in the right to adequate housing" in the UK.
She cited examples of disabled people, or grandmothers who were carers, and said the measure seemed to have been designed "without the human component in mind".
She said her recommendation was "that it should be suspended" to allow time to better assess the human rights implications, and so it could be redesigned."

Grant Shapps was miffed because Raquel didn't ask him anything, I would say, Grant Shapps probably isn't affected by the bedroom tax - sorry - the spare room subsidy, so why would she? He said:
"It is completely wrong and an abuse of the process for somebody to come over, to fail to meet with government ministers, to fail to meet with the department responsible, to produce a press release two weeks after coming, even though the report is not due out until next spring, and even to fail to refer to the policy properly throughout the report."
Jeezo Grant, get over yourself. The bedroom tax isn't that complicated, Ms Rolnik met with a senior official from the DWP after which there was...

"...a further meeting "at which the findings were presented by the rapporteur". A spokesman said that at the start Communities Secretary Eric Pickles "popped in - it would be pushing it to call it a meeting".
Eric Pickles no less. The idea of him 'popping in', consider my mind boggled.

Eric Pickles: arguing against a spare chin tax. (Tory SoS for Communities and Local Government.)

It goes with out saying, Shapps is pissed off because the bedroom tax is a shit idea and he didn't get the chance to spin it otherwise. Raquel Rolnik got straight to the job of finding out how it affected real people and discovered that it probably did infringe certain human rights.

The human rights issue isn't the most compelling argument against the bedroom tax, as mentioned, it'll save no money and its backward and unfair. Once again political leaders at Westminster are demanding swathes of the population comply with a certain policy, then promptly arranging things so its almost impossible to do so.

If you can't find a job they tell you to move, never for a moment thinking how much it costs to move. Even if you do find work, with so many new jobs being temporary, part time or having zero hour contracts attached; its not worth it. MP's don't understand any of that mundane crap because for them, for each of life's challenges, there is an expense to cover it.

Take Eric Pickles for example. During the expenses scandal his main home was only 29 miles away from Parliament in his Essex constituency - yet - he claimed £250 a month in mortgage interest payments, £750 a year for services charges for a second home in East London, Pickles also billed the public purse £200 for cleaning and £280 for groceries and other household bills every month, (to be fair, that last one could have been much higher...)

No doubt there is money to be saved in the UK, but taking it off people who are already struggling is wrong and inhumane, that the UK needs the fragrant Raquel Rolnik of the UN to come and tell the incumbent government does not bode well for any of us.

Meanwhile, as part of Team GB, we're racing to the bottom. The Civil service's working conditions are better than the private sector's - what to do? How about, instead of pulling the private sector up to the level of the civil service, why not drag the civil service down to private sector conditions. 

Or - there are some in our society who need a wee bit extra help, do we give them that and attempt to raise them up out of the vicious cycle of poverty they find themselves in? No, lets make their situation worse by lowering the pitiful amount of money they're given and further lowering standards for everyone.

Meanwhile, Labour - who brought the bedroom tax in originally - now say they wouldn't have adopted the policy and crucially, won't say they'll scrap it if returned to government in 2015.

In Scotland?

Well, 41 Scottish MP's voted against, whilst 4 MP's voted for.

MP's vote all the time on all sorts of things at Westminster, while the bedroom tax may not affect you directly; there will be policies that do and others that already have.

The people at Better Together love to tell us how uncertain the world is, but uncertainty & risk is inevitable, there's nothing new about that. What we should have but don't - as evidenced by the bedroom tax vote among others - is choice. Scotland has no choice in the United Kingdom, our choices are made for us by others to their own advantage, if that needlessly impoverishes Scotland then so be it.

Turns out, we do have one very special, far-reaching choice to make, one that if taken correctly will empower every other choice we make there-after. The question is, do we have the collective guts to take it?

I hope I'm not alone in saying; I really hope so.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Well, they would say that wouldn't they...

Can you spot the give-away word in this headline?

Scottish referendum: CBI boss Sir Mike Rake raises independence doubts

Let me give you a wee clue: The Most Noble Order of the Garter (KG or LG,) The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (KT or LT,) The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB, KCB/GCB or CB,) The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG, KCMG/DCMG or CMG,) The Distinguished Service Order (DSO,) The Royal Victorian Order (GCVO, KCVO/DCVO and CVO, LVO or MVO,) The Order of Merit (OM,) The Imperial Service Order (ISO,) The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE or KBE/DBE, CBE [Commander] OBE, [Officer] or MBE [Member]) and The Order of the Companions of Honour (CH.)

So one tiny word ('sir' if you haven't guessed yet) completely undermines the entire headline and the article it describes. I dare say Mike Rake is a blast at dinner parties, but in his role as President of the CBI - he's a tiresome old parrot. If you see a headline, report or comment relating to the Scottish Independence referendum and the author's name is preceded by any of the acronyms listed above - you can pretty much ignore it because its going to be partisan. I don't know (meaning I don't really care) what flavour of knighthood Mike Rake has but its safe to say, anyone who's been so awarded by the British establishment will be a pretty firm supporter of it. Another example of the British Establishment ridiculously asking for its own opinion in favour of itself can be found here.

Sir Mike Rake KPMG*
An old parrot.

The Scottish CBI also has form, its about as fair and non-partisan as its current Director is, which is to say, not very. Here he is - Iain McMillan...

Even more tiresome than Mike
... has been caught out more than once misrepresenting both the CBI's scope in Scotland and the views of its members. This from the beginning of last year is just one example of the type of porkies Iain likes to spout:

Iain McMillan, the director of CBI Scotland, last week said that a meeting of 16 of its members was ''at one'' with support for an early ballot after meeting Scottish Secretary Michael Moore in Edinburgh.
Eh no Iain:
However, four of the firms present have since told the Sunday Herald that was not their view. One businessman said it was "absolutely not the case" that all the firms wanted an early vote, and that there had been a broad range of opinions. 
And previously:
McMillan was also criticised for exaggerating opposition in the business community during the 1997 referendum on devolution. He claimed all 54 CBI council members had agreed a new Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers would "damage business north of the border" despite only 24 attending the relevant meeting.
The CBI (Confederation of British Industry - another clue right there) in Scotland claims to have a mandate to represent Scottish business, but does it? I'm no flinty-eyed conspiracy theorist but for an organisation to make such a claim to not then give some details of that mandate - to me - seems suspicious. There are no details of membership on their website and while there was a business directory up a couple years ago, it has since disappeared, possibly because of this. The information there is old (more than two years) but since CBI Scotland still won't say what their membership is, its all we've got to go on.

Scotland has something in the region of 300,000 business enterprises (as of 2011,) according to CBI's business directory at the time - interrogated at length by Calum Cashley - only around 90 had Scottish addresses. Drilling further down into the numbers, taking into consideration only Scottish owned & headquartered, medium to large business - at that time out of 2,695 the CBI had as members only 62 of them - equating to 2.3%, a thumping mandate according to Mssr's McMillan and Rake. (Hat tip to Calum Cashley for these figures)

I'll insert the caveat (if I can put it like that) here, those figures are from the beginning of 2011 but even so, CBI Scotland would've required an astounding increase in membership to possess what it could call 'a mandate to represent Scottish business'.

So Mike Rake will have his tea this weekend at the Glasgow Hilton (City Centre.) He'll give a speech about how crap gaining independence would be for Scotland - but really mean how crap it'll be for the CBI and it's Scottish subsidiary. And as if to underline just how irrelevant the CBI is north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Nick Clegg will also be there to say something deeply meaningful about how splendid Scotland is as part of the UK - but really meaning how splendid it is for the UK treasury.

The BBC love this sort of thing, they get to stick another article on their website putting the boot into the Yes Scotland campaign. But, all it ends up being is the jabberings of yet another London-fed establishment personality on a topic he knows fuck all about - and that's just Nick Clegg.

The only other thing worthy of mention about Sir Mike Rake is, that he's also Chairman of BT Group, although not the fear-mongering bunch of scaredy-cats who work from 5 Blythswood Square in Glasgow. See when your internet goes down and the Broadband provider tells you its not them but BT's line? Well, Mike Rake is responsible for the hours you will spend speaking to faultlessly polite but ultimately useless Indians on the other side of the planet.

* KPMG is not a British honour, its a company that Mike Rake used to work for, in fact, he may still do. The truth is - I care as much about that as I do about the BBC article containing his entirely predictable opinions on Scottish independence.

Next please.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Saturday 21st of September, Calton Hill.

I attended the last independence rally in the Meadows and Princes Street Gardens, it was nice to be around so many like minded folk. It goes with out saying, I'm looking forward to this month's rally on Calton Hill.

I think some people are worried there won't be enough space, I've been to the Beltane Festival on Calton Hill - a moderately surreal experience if I'm being honest - where something in the region of 12,000 regularly attend with space to spare.

Obviously there are differences between the two; the Beltane Festival is a night time event and involves a fair bit of nudity, (note to self - don't Google images for Beltane at work again.) Whilst one hopes at the Independence rally all attendees remain fully clad - swapping kilts for the grass skirts favoured by Beltane-goers though - seems a fair exchange.

Red arrow shows last year's venue, the blue arrow shows Calton Hill - its a good bit bigger.
(I know, my skill with MS Paint knows no beginnings.)

On the one hand, I hope the hill does overflow on to Waterloo place, it would send a strong message to the Scottish Media who are so keen to treat support for independence as nothing more than an itch it can't quite scratch. I mean, I already believe there are swathes of people who, very quietly but no less implacably, are going to vote Yes. But it'll do no harm to put on a bit of a show - let people know the independence movement isn't the also-ran the execrable Scottish press would have them believe.

Meanwhile, we can expect the usual doom and derision from the 'Better Not' crowd, Ruth Davidson seems to be projecting Tory shortcomings at the moment so will no doubt say the rally 'lacked vision and aspiration', Willie will be terribly polite but no less derisive (and no bugger will bother what he says anyway.) Johann will gurn and spit out a stream of consonants with no separating vowels, no one except Margaret Curran will understand because she is the only other speaker of that particular dialect.

Over all, the BT mob - privately mind - will seethe because they can't produce anything like the level of enthusiasm for their cause as we can for ours. That won't last though, they'll remember their campaign ethos; 'hold on to the no votes we have and keep everyone else petrified.'

More than anything, what this rally will do is further normalise the idea of self determination. People will see a parade of folk just like them heading for Calton Hill, hopefully some of the optimism and positivity will rub off and they will begin to doubt the litany of fear coming from unionist politicians and the no campaign.

Ask any one who knows me and they will agree - I am a miserable bastard. But I'll tell you, its hard work maintaining the facade. I am optimistic for Scotland, I really am. While we all have personal challenges that occupy and sometimes drag us down - you're a lucky rarity if you don't - it doesn't have to be that way for the country.

Not wishing to bang on, we have a unique opportunity approaching next year, the chance to make a life-affecting change. I have zero tolerance for the 'it'll-make-no-difference' brigade because it absolutely will, how could it not? There is a tangible difference between the politics of Westminster and the politics of Holyrood. Westminster is complacent & imperious with age - it thinks it can do anything it likes, and frequently does. Holyrood is a young representative parliament which hasn't had the time to get jaded.

Is it perfect? No of course not, But to paraphrase Mrs Howden - if you don't like something, it's right fucking there on your doorstep, unlike Westminster which does its best not to be.

I'm looking forward to the march, I think I may also attend the party the night before,  although I wouldn't be singing right enough*, that would be cruel. I'm also looking forward to being around like-minded people again, its refreshing and encouraging at the same time. Hopefully the folk over at Wings Over Scotland will get organised with a venue to meet beforehand, I don't comment often - there are enough to be getting on with - but it would be nice to put names to faces. 

Other than that, I look forward to the token unionist unfurling a Union Flag and the hoots of good-natured derision he/she or they will attract.

* Unless enough wine is taken in which case I could be persuaded into a plaintiff rendition of Eric Carmen's seminal hit - 'All by myself'. (Dedicated to David Mundell and by extension, after Sept 2014, Westminster in general.)